Family Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)

Least Concern

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)


French: Martin-pêcheur d’Europe German: Eisvogel Spanish: Martín pescador común

Gracula Atthis


, 1758,



Recent study suggested that this species is closest to A. coerulescens, these two being sister to A. quadribrachys and A. semitorquata#R. Formerly considered conspecific with A. semitorquata. SE forms hispidoides and salomonensis are distinctive, especially on account of blue ear-coverts, but floresiana appears intermediate between these and races to W. Populations in C Asia, Afghanistan and Kashmir sometimes separated as race pallasii on basis of shorter bill and paler underparts, but they seem to fall within normal range of variation of nominate; proposed race japonica included within bengalensis. Seven subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. a. ispida Linnaeus, 1758 – S Norway, British Is and Spain (except S & E) E to W Russia and Romania; winters S to S Portugal, N Africa, Cyprus and Iraq.
  • A. a. atthis (Linnaeus, 1758) – Common Kingfisher – NW Africa and S & E Spain E to Bulgaria, Afghanistan and NW India, then N to C Siberia and NW China; winters S to Egypt, NE Sudan, Oman and Pakistan.
  • A. a. bengalensis J. F. Gmelin, 1788 – C India E to SE Asia, S & E China (including Hainan), N to SE Siberia, E Mongolia and Japan; winters S to Greater Sundas, N Sulawesi, Sula Is, N Moluccas and Philippines.
  • A. a. taprobana O. Kleinschmidt, 1894 – S India (S of R Godavari) and Sri Lanka.
  • A. a. floresiana Sharpe, 1892 – Bali and Lesser Sundas E to Wetar and Timor.
  • A. a. hispidoides Lesson, 1837 – Cobalt-eared Kingfisher – Sulawesi, Moluccas and W Papuan Is, and coastal E New Guinea from Sepik R and Aroa R to Bismarck Archipelago, D’Entrecasteaux Is and Louisiade Archipelago.
  • A. a. salomonensis Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1905 – Nissan I (off E Bismarcks), and Solomon Is from Buka and Bougainville SE to Makira (San Cristobal).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–18 cm; male 23–35 g (atthis), 29–45 g (ispida), 19–40 g (bengalen­sis), female 30–35 g (atthis), 34... read more


    Short, shrill “chee, chee” in flight; alarm a harsher “tjii”; harsh grating... read more


    Still or gently flowing water with plentiful small fish, and with reeds, rushes or shrubs on the... read more

    Food and feeding

    Fish the main prey in Europe: include minnows (Phoxinus), sticklebacks (Gasterosteus), bullhead (Cottus), roach... read more


    Lays in Mar–Jul (mainly Apr) in Britain, mainly May in Sweden; in Mar–May in Morocco and Iraq; in Apr–Jul in Kashmir, in... read more


    N populations, in areas where freezing conditions in winter, regularly migrate S, generally staying... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widely distributed and common in many regions, but sensitive to river pollution and river management. Population in W Europe estimated to be 10,000... read more

    Recommended citation

    Woodall, P.F. (2019). Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 February 2019).